Three Up/Three Down: Michigan Runs Washington Into The Ground

The offense wasn't high-octane or explosive through the air, but Michigan imposed its will against Washington on the ground.
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Michigan was a 6.5-point favorite over the Washington Huskies in a prime time matchup with more than 108,000 maize-wearing fans looking on. The Wolverines took care of business in a demoralizing way by rushing the ball 55 times for 345 yards and won 31-10. Blake Corum shined once again to the tune of 171 yards on 21 carries with three touchdowns. The Wolverines barely threw the ball because they flat out didn't have to. 

A lot of people were unhappy with how the offense looked as Michigan went into the locker room at halftime, but they were up 10-0. Then they came out in the third quarter and ran the ball eight straight times and scored again. 17-0. It's hard to complain with results like that, but it's also hard to imagine Michigan outscoring an opponent if it needs to. 

At the end of the day, a win is a win. Even though it felt a little sleepy at times, the Wolverines are 2-0. Here are three things to smile about and three things to take back to the drawing board.

Three Up

Blake Corum is still a dude

It's crystal clear at this point. As outlined above, he got it done on the ground in a big way. Hassan Haskins was also really good, again (27 carries, 155 yards and a touchdown), but Corum just has another gear and a different look. He popped another big play scoring from 67 yards out and legitimately looks like he could break one on almost every play. He averaged a large 8.1 yards per carry and produced more than Haskins on six less carries. I predicted that he'd start the game today, which he didn't, but if he keeps stacking these kinds of games up it's going to get harder and harder to not begin games with him.

Aidan Hutchinson looks GREAT in his new role

Once again, Hutchinson made a lot of noise. He put pressure on the quarterback all day long and recorded 2.5 sacks giving him 3.5 on the season. He's showing signs of being unblockable and really combines talent with a relentless motor on just about every play. It's very obvious why he was named a captain ahead of the opener and now he's well on his way to being named team MVP. 

A win is a win

The game had a weird feel to it because Michigan ran the ball over and over and over again, but they won quite easily, so you'll take it. They ran the ball very effectively, but it is a little concerning that Cade McNamara's stat line looks like that of an Army quarterback. There wasn't much urgency in certain situations and the play calling early on from the 1-yard line and right before halftime just doesn't evoke much confidence in McNamara or the offense as a whole. Chalk it all up to "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," but I think you're kidding yourself if you aren't a little concerned about the offense.

Three Down

The punt return game

Losing Ronnie Bell hurts in a lot of ways and we saw that tonight. Bell got injured on a punt return, which limits what Michigan wants to do there in a big way. Earlier in the week Jim Harbaugh said that Caden Kolesar would be back deep because he has the surest hands and makes the best decisions. Tonight, Kolesar chose not to catch a punt that he certainly should have and muffed one as well. As an actual returner, he's just not much of a weapon. It wouldn't surprise me if we see AJ Henning or Roman Wilson back there at some point, but tonight we didn't and Kolesar struggled. 

Lack of confidence in Cade McNamara

McNamara was just 4-of-10 for 30 yards at halftime and Michigan was only up 10-0. He finished the game 7-of-15 for 44 yards and rarely took any shots downfield. That kind of stat line and approach is just unacceptable in today's age of college football. It didn't seem to matter where the ball was, what the down and distance was or who was in the backfield or in at receiver, Jim Harbaugh and Josh Gattis just didn't dial much up for McNamara. When Harbaugh named McNamara the starter he said it was because of Cade's ability to elevate everyone around him. So far, that's not what it looks like. The coaches aren't letting McNamara push the ball down the field and have called short throw after short throw, especially tonight against Washington. The Michigan coaches got away with it tonight because UW couldn't stop the run, but what happens when you need to put up a bunch of points or keep pace with a more explosive offense?

Overall play calling

This one is directly related to the point above. I know Michigan won and I know the running game was working, but it's clear that the staff doesn't trust Cade McNamara and the play calling proved it. It feels way off criticizing a 21-point win, but there are red flags on offense. If Michigan really needs to pick up a 3rd and long late in a game to stay alive, how confident are you that they could do that? If the defense has an off night and surrenders 35+ points, could the offense keep pace? Michigan is 2-0 and just beat a Pac-12 opponent easily, but the offense definitely needs to get more creative, more explosive through the air and more appealing to offensive recruits.